Today, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny, the sequel series to Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, takes the stage. Unlike many Gundam series, this one was specifically built to carry on the stories of the SEED cast. Did they manage it?
As I said, Destiny is built to carry on the stories of the original SEED cast, although they don't all join the story at once. The story, instead, starts off with a new cast of the ZAFT ship Minerva. In particular, we get introduced to Shinn, Lunamarie, and Rey. Shinn is best described as a foil to Athrun and Kira's duo. He is what the two would have become if they hadn't taken the third option in the last war. He is wildly impulsive, driven by questionable emotions, and isn't interested in the bigger picture.
Destiny starts off two years after the end of SEED and the world is at a tenuous peace. The Gundam SEED cast has settled down into daily life to varying degrees. Cagalli is the head-of-state for Orb, with Athrun serving as her bodyguard. Kira and Lacus are living a peaceful life with the minister we met from SEED. Miriallia has gone on to be a freelance photographer. A bundle of everyone else lives in Orb now as well.
The plot starts out pretty simple: a ZAFT base storing new Gundam models is attacked by unknown enemies and a bunch of them are stolen. This sets off a chain of events that threatens to reignite the war that was narrowly ended in SEED. As the plot develops, themes are reintroduced and the SEED cast gradually weaves their way back into the story.
This series is very watchable in the same way that most Gundam series are. The action is excellent and the plot is just twisty enough to keep you on board. The top-notch animation quality of Destiny probably helps this along.
Gundam SEED Destiny feels very familiar to Gundam SEED, but it manages to tread new territory at the same time. Whereas Eureka Seven: Astral Ocean wildly diverged from the original, Destiny doesn't actually feel that way. It retains the elements it should and introduces new elements to make it a sequel.
Speaking of that, I've been told in the comments here that this series butchered the characters of SEED. I actually disagree on several levels with this. It does an okay job of developing the characters of SEED, although it is a bit uneven. Athrun was very much a core character to this series and it was great. Athrun ended Gundam SEED without an answer to his questions, Gundam SEED Destiny tried to explore his search for that answer and it worked quite well for his character. Kira and Lacus don't get developed much, but they both get their character development from Gundam SEED reinforced.
The rest of the cast is a bit mixed though.
The soundtrack for Destiny started out excellent. I thought that the first two opening themes were great, the battle music was good, and the filler music was where it should be. This continued until the mid-series. At that point... it kinda slipped in my opinion. The battle music was okay and the opening themes went the way of the "meh".
By far the best reason that I liked Destiny was that the cast is back. I liked SEED's cast in the original, particularly Cagalli, Athrun, Lacus, and Kira, so having them back was a giant plus. Kira and Athrun lend their complex internal conflicts over war and the definition of "enemy" to the series again. Kira starts out living a contented, peaceful life that eventually gets ripped away by the chaos of conflict. Athrun is similar, though he chooses to try to do something about it rather than wait. This also seems to align with his character.
On the other hand, my favorite character "Third-option Iron Lady Lacus Clyne" is back with a vengeance. Who would have figured from the first few episodes of SEED that Lacus has such an iron will behind her kind demeanor? I really do love the character development that Lacus had in SEED. In this series, we see Lacus reinforce her ideals once again. Like many of the SEED characters, Lacus appears to reexamine the decisions and ideals she formed in the last series. Pretty well done in my opinion and her iron will is certainly awesome when it comes to bear.
Speaking of, Destiny approaches the themes of SEED with new eyes. In order to cause a bit of conflict in the SEED characters, the series shows that even after everything they did, nothing seems to have changed. In so doing, all the themes of SEED wiggle their way back into Destiny. I thought it was damn nice to see us revisit these themes.
The biggest problem I had with this series? Shinn. Shinn. Shinn. Shinn.
To hell with him. Honestly, this is a character that has me scratching my head more than any other in history. I actually have an example that managed to get into my notes. This doesn't happen often:
Person: "She left with Athrun of her own free will."
Shinn: "That Bastard!"
And then, at that moment, Dex flung his arms about and decided that Shinn's character never makes any sense. Ever. Yes, she left by her own will, and it's his fault.
Shinn is the protagonist of Gundam SEED Destiny and, unfortunately, his mind makes no sense at all. Even in situations when it is clear that doing something would result in something bad happening, he does it. When it is ambiguous what will happen, he does it anyway. When it is clear what the right thing to do is, he doesn't do it at all.
In Gundam SEED, we had Athrun and Kira leading the pack in the character department. They were likable and their reactions to situations never seemed wrong at all, just ill-informed. They both developed considerably over SEED until they managed to come together once again as friends. Destiny's saving grace here is that the second half saw more of Athrun/Kira again which counterbalanced Shinn.
The goal of Shinn's character was to create a foil for both Athrun and Kira. Well, it worked. In addition to being nothing like either of them, Shinn is unlikable to boot. The worst part? Shinn doesn't really get any major character development. The only time he seems to have any major growth happened in the Final Plus episode (an extended ending to the final episode).
Next, Cagalli shows back up in Destiny too. Unfortunately for her, it seems like her personality got nerfed for the sake of the plot. She was a rebel in SEED that was willing to stand up for what she believed in. In Destiny, she's not really like this. I'm willing to attribute some of this to the two years that bridged SEED and Destiny, but it still rubs me wrong. Something feels off.
When you compare the plot of Destiny to SEED, SEED looks surprisingly simple and straightforward. The plot of Destiny goes a bit nutter and strange by the end of it all. It is almost overly complex and weird sometimes. By the end of the whole thing, there really doesn't end up being much closure on either the future or most of the characters in the story. It is a bit underwhelming.
There is some dissonance present between reality and the plot too. Neo never gets anything in the way of blame for the millions of people he directly caused to be killed. To be honest though, I'm not sure how you could have played this one any differently though. The plot was somewhat contingent on finishing this line of thought and just moving on.
This is a good series, or at the very least decent. It doesn't quite bleed the same awesome that SEED did before it, but it doesn't overtly suck either. It is actually a fair sequel in some aspects, but it gets muddled a bit by the introduction of the new characters to the story. It tends to lose its focus because there are eventually two casts on the show that it needs to keep track of: the old and the new.
The plot gets a bit nutter and out there, particularly in the back-half of the series, but I don't consider this a deal breaker. The plots are always a bit zany in Gundam shows. Tell me I'm wrong.
I liked this series, I really did. It brought back the old cast and played around with the old themes of the last show. Pretty much everything isn't as good as its predecessor, but SEED was awesome. As such, it only falls as low as decent at its worst. We got some extensions on the character plots from SEED, although some are either altered a bit or just seem underdeveloped (Miriallia and Dearka's relationship is a poster child for the latter).
This is best for someone that wants a simple extension of the SEED universe. At times Destiny can be an excellent sequel and at others it can be a bit mixed. The second half is better, but not by much.
Sunrise, stop spoiling stuff in your openings. I'm docking you a point for this. Shame.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny is available for streaming on Youtube. The remastered series is still being released weekly on Youtube, so you'll need to use other avenues to watch the tail end of the series.
As usual, I claim no ownership of the images herein.
White Album is on deck and Code Geass isn't far behind, expect one of them next time.
This is part of my Anime Review Marathon that I began in October 2013 to record my thoughts as I watch a variety of anime on my ever growing backlog. These reviews won't come out on a consistent basis, they'll come out when I feel I have seen enough of a series to pass a judgement on it, although usually I will finish the whole series before the review.
You can see all my articles on Dex's Corner.